Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice on the White House South Lawn in front of Donald Trump by Clarence Thomas Monday night – an hour after a divided Senate voted for her confirmation.
Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court by a 52-48 vote – with Republican Susan Collins crossing the aisle to vote against her. Her confirmation immediately makes the court solidly conservative with a 6-3 majority.
At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue at 9pm, and in the face of a pandemic which reached a new record number of cases, Trump turned the South Lawn into the venue for a celebration of Coney Barrett’s swearing-in.
Trump praised Coney Barrett’s ‘towering intellect,’ and ‘impeccable credentials,’ as he spoke with the new justice on his right and Thomas on his left.
After Thomas swore her in Coney Barrett thanks the senators who voted for her and said: ‘I pledge to you and to the American people that I will discharge my duties to the best of my ability.’
And in an acknowledgement of her highly-controversial confirmation process and the focus on her conservative Catholic beliefs and open espousal of pro-life beliefs while she was an academic.
‘I will do my job my without any fear or favor and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and my personal preferences.’
In front of Coney Barrett and Trump on the South Lawn were Coney Barrett’s husband Jesse, First Lady Melania Trump, and some of the Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee including Ted Ctruz, as well as White House aides.
The event was in the dark but inevitably echoed the superspreader unveiling of Coney Barrett in the Rose Garden exactly a month ago, which left former New Jersey governor Chris Christie in intensive care and was quickly followed by Trump and Melania getting COVID.
This time however – and for the first time at the White House – chairs were spread apart and many of the guests were wearing masks.
Not present were Mike Pence, the vice president who has continued to campaign for Trump despite five of his aides including his closest staff member testing positive for COVID, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has not been to the White House since August because his concern it is unsafe.
Moment of history: Amy Coney Barrett, her hand on a Bible held by her husband Jesse, is sworn in as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by Clarence Thomas, its longest-serving justice
Confirmed: Amy Coney Barrett smiles as Donald Trump praises her just before she is sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas to give the Supreme Court a 6-3 conservative majority
Delight: Donald Trump smiled as he celebrated gaining his third Supreme Court Justice as a crowd in the South Lawn applauded
Lit up in celebration: The White House was draped in giant flags for the swearing-in of Amy Coney Barrett (left) by Clarence Thomas (right)
Praise for Clarence Thomas: Donald Trump thanked the longest-serving – and most conservative – of the bench for his service before the 72-year-old administered the oath
Spouses together: Jesse Barrett, Amy Coney Barrett’s husband, walked out of the White House with First Lady Melania Trump, neither of them in masks
Trump’s third nominee was not in the chamber to watch the roll call vote, which allows her to join the eight justices on Tuesday morning, and potentially to decide on cases about voting before the November 3 election.
Senate president pro tempore Chuck Grassley declared her confirmation at 8.06pm to applause from fellow Republicans; outside the Supreme Court conservatives chanted Coney Barrett’s name as soon as she was confirmed.
Her confirmation transforms the court to a 6-3 conservative majority and comes after fierce opposition from Democrats, whose presidential nominee Joe Biden has resisted pressure to promise to pack the court if he wins – but who says he will order a commission on reforming the high court.
Before the final vote she was praised by Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell who said: ‘By every account, the Supreme Court is getting not just an outstanding lawyer but a fantastic person.
‘This is one of the brilliant, admired and well-qualified nominees in our lifetime,’ he said.
She will be the only justice confirmed with a law degree from ‘any school not named Harvard or Yale.’
The newest justice: Amy Coney Barrett, 48, was confirmed on Monday evening 52-48 by the Senate and will be able to join the other justices Tuesday morning
I did it: Mitch McConnell leaves the Senate with a thumbs up for succeeding in putting Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court
Three for three: Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has now shepherded Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett on to the high court – each one in controversial circumstances
Objection: Democratic minority leader Chuck Schumer said that Republicans have tarnished themselves with the rush to put Barrett on the seat instead of letting voters decide the next president and allowing them to nominate a replacement of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Controversial: Supporters and opponents of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation gathered outside the Supreme Court as the Senate voted to put her on the high court
McConnell added in an acknowledgment of the controversy over filling Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat days before the election and in defiance of her dying wish: ‘I think we can all acknowledge that both sides in the Senate have sort of parallel oral histories about the last 30 or so years.
‘Each side feel the other side struck first and struck worse.’
Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, however, scorned the process which saw Coney Barrett confirmed on the eve of an election when McConnell had stopped even a hearing for Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s nominee, in 2016.
‘You may win this vote. And Amy Coney Barrett may become the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. But you will never, ever, get your credibility back,’ he said to Republicans on the Senate floor.
Democrats had made the nomination before an election the center of their case against her, and highlighted her conservative rulings while a federal appeals court judge.
They had also warned that she may vote down Obamacare, move to overturn Roe v. Wade, which enshrines women’s right to choose, and imperil restrictions on gun ownership, but could not stop McConnell’s express train to fill the seat before the election.
The 48-year-old becomes the youngest member of the court, and almost certainly one of its most conservative.
But with Collins – whose re-election in Maine next week is already in jeopardy, according to polls – voting against Coney Barrett, she is the only one of Trump’s nominees not to have at least one Democratic vote, and the only one with a Republican voting against her.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows sought to assure reporters Monday that the White House ceremony would include safety precautions – which it did have, for the first time.
‘We’re doing tonight the best we can to encourage as much social distancing as possible,’ he said.
Ready to celebrate: The White House South Lawn gets ready for a mass celebration of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation
Three seats: Donald Trump got his third nominee confirmed with just eight days to go until the election – which Amy Coney Barrett may well become involved in deciding the outcome of
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, 72, will swear in Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court in a White House ceremony as soon as she is confirmed in the Senate vote Monday evening
The White House is planning a Rose Garden celebration of her confirmation, similar to the ‘superspreader’ event announcing Barrett’s nomination last month that sparked a White House coronavirus outbreak – infecting the president, first lady and their son, as well as several top aides and lawmakers
The plans had set off alarm bells as it sounds eerily similar to the Rose Garden event last month when Trump announced Barrett’s nomination, inviting a whole crowd of aides, advisers, lawmakers and supporters to witness the occasion.
That event sparked a White House outbreak of COVID-19, which infected the president, first lady Melania and their son Barron, as well as about a dozen others within Trump’s inner circle.
On Sunday, the Senate held a procedural vote to advance Barrett’s nomination and kicked off 30 hours of debate, which will clear the way for a vote Monday evening.
‘This is something to be really proud of and feel good about,’ Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said during a rare weekend session.
McConnell lauded that Democrats ‘won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come’, in contrast to legislative actions, which can be undone with new executive or legislative terms.
Barrett, a 48-year-old appellate judge for the 7th circuit, is a staunch Roman Catholic and life-long conservative. Her personal pro-life views have raised eyebrows among progressives who claim she will dismantle a woman’s right to an abortion by working to overturn Roe v. Wade.
She is a member of People of Praise, a small and ultra-conservative charismatic group whose members speak in tongues.
Republicans had painted questions over her faith as an attack on Catholics at large and Democrats had steered clear of the group in their questions to her.
Her lifetime appointment to the highest U.S. court will also drastically change the makeup of the Supreme Court for a generation to come.
The mother of seven – five biological and two adopted from Haiti – has embraced her classification as the ‘female Antonin Scalia’ and says his jurisprudential practice of ‘applying the law as written’ will be how she serves.
During the three days of confirmation hearings earlier this month, including a day of opening statements and two days of questioning, Barrett reiterated her stance as a textualist and originalist, stressing this means she would apply the Constitution to cases as it’s written and was intended by the drafters.
In the short term, Barrett could help decide election and voting-related issues as the vote on her confirmation comes just over a week before Election Day.
Donald Trump has made it clear he feels the results of the election could end up at the Supreme Court – and with a conservative majority of 6-3 with Barrett seated, it’s more likely they would rule in favor of the president.
Also about a week after the election the Supreme Court will take up a case on the Affordable Care Act, which Democrats fear will be overturned if Barrett has anything to say about it.
MEET ACB, A CONSERVATIVE PIN-UP FOR HER DEEP FAITH AND BRILLIANT CAREER – AND A LIGHTNING ROD FOR LIBERALS
Amy Coney Barrett is 48, a mother of seven and a brilliant legal mind – and now she is the most divisive Supreme Court Justice in at least a generation and perhaps far longer.
She brings to the Supreme Court a short judicial career, a longer academic one and the hopes of a conservative legal movement that they have a secure 6-3 majority in the high court for now, and a stalwart vote on it for many decades to come.
Coney Barrett’s life story makes her the sixth Catholic on the court, keeps the six-three male-female make-up of the bench, and for the first time ever puts on the court someone who openly identifies with the charismatic wing of modern Christianity.
She is also the only one who did not receive an education at Harvard or Yale, and the only mid-western and southern justice, having been born and brought up in Louisiana and spent the rest of her life in Indiana.
Barrett was brought up in Metairie, Louisiana, as a member of charismatic, conservative, Catholic group People of Praise and one of seven children.
Her father, Mike Coney, a former oil company lawyer, has been a leading member for decades. Her attorney-husband, Jesse, 46, whom she met while both were students at Notre Dame University, was also raised in the group.
She had studied for her undergraduate degree at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, and contemplated further study in English literature but instead decided to study law, going to Notre Dame whose law school has built a reputation as predominantly conservative.
Family photo of Amy Coney Barrett, her husband Jesse Barrett, and their seven children Emma; Vivian; Tess; John Peter; Liam; Juliet; and Benjamin. Her large family has been part of her appeal for conservatives. Vivian and John Peter are adopted from Haiti and their youngest son Benjamin has Down Syndrome
Judge Amy Coney Barrett introduced her family at her confirmation hearing including her children (from left, first row) Liam, Vivian, Tess, Juliet, Emma, J.P. and husband Jesse and then siblings (from left, second row) Vivian, Eileen, Michael, Megan and Amanda. Sister Carrie was seated across the aisle
Amy Coney Barrett is seen in a family photo with siblings and parents. In 2018, Barrett’s father Mike Coney wrote an online biography of himself on his church’s website, saying he joined People of Praise because he and his wife Linda ‘felt a call to live life in a close knit Christian community…one that would help form our children into good Christians and strengthen our marriage and family’
Family photo of Amy Coney Barrett, husband Jesse Barrett, and their seven children. She and her husband Jesse
Described by one professor as the best student he had ever had, she went on to be a clerk for Antonin Scalia, the justice who championed originalism as a judicial philosophy.
She had a brief career in private practice but became a law professor at Notre Dame, and married and had seven children.
The visible manifestation of her conservative Catholic beliefs was part of her appeal to political conservatives.
But it has also focused attention on the tiny group, which has just over 2,000 members and which does not represent mainstream Catholicism.
People of Praise is headquartered in Notre Dame’s hometown, South Bend, Indiana, and many of its leading members have ties to the university. According to its website, the group has branches in 14 states as well as one in Canada and two in the Caribbean. It runs three Grades 7-through-12 Trinity Schools and one elementary school.
Both— who lives in South Bend — and People of Praise seem to have gone to extraordinary lengths to hide her affiliation. Articles mentioning her were removed from the group’s website shortly before she was to be considered for a seat on the Federal Appeals Court in 2017.
Barrett’s ties to People of Praise only became public when the New York Times broke the story three weeks after her confirmation hearing as an appeals court judge, but before the committee had voted. The committee eventually split along party lines to confirm her. Three Democrats voted with the Republican majority in the vote in the full Senate.
People of Praise is strongly anti-abortion. It also rejects homosexuality. ‘Both are seen as being accepted by human law, but rejected by divine law,’ the former member explained.
‘Homosexual relationships are taboo, and any LGBTQ inclinations are seen as temptations that must be overcome through prayer. If that fails, the member must lead a life of chastity.’
Even dating is a no-no until a member has ‘prayed through their state in life’ and decided they are ready to ‘marry for the Lord.’ If they have not committed themselves to marriage, they must not date.
Barrett got her law degree at Notre Dame, graduating first in her class in 1997. She’s pictured speaking at Notre Dame’s Law School commencement in 2018
Barrett and her husband Jesse are members of People of Praise, a small group that teaches that wives have to obey their husbands in everything
The group is probably best known for its doctrine that women must obey their husbands in everything, and its system where all men and single women must report to their mentor — called a ‘head’. Husbands act as the ‘head’ for their wives.
The ‘heads’ have such influence they give direction on who a member should date or even marry, how to raise children, whether to take a new job and where to live.
Until recently the female leader was known as a ‘handmaid.’ But that title was dropped after the success of the dystopian TV show The Handmaid’s Tale and the negative connotations it brought to the title.
Author Margaret Atwood, who wrote the original novel, said it was based on a group that has similar views to People of Praise.
The conservative Catholic beliefs have bled into her public life: she is a former member of the Notre Dame’s ‘Faculty for Life’ and in 2015 signed a letter to the Catholic Church affirming the ‘teachings of the Church as truth.’
Among those teachings were the ‘value of human life from conception to natural death’ and marriage-family values ‘founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman’.
She has previously written that Supreme Court precedents are not sacrosanct. Liberals have taken these comments as a threat to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide.
Barrett wrote that she agrees ‘with those who say that a justice’s duty is to the Constitution and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks clearly in conflict with it’.
What she said is the distillation of originalism and raises the possibility that she could tear up precedent if she sees it as out of line with the original constiution.
That puts her in sync with Scalia and the Republican senators who voted for her and expect her to rule in line with that for decades to come; it puts her violently at odds with those who do not agree, and puts her on track to be a justice whose presence on the bench is going to divide opinion as long as she remains on it.